, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 1073-1084

Home-field advantage: native signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) out consume newly introduced crayfishes for invasive Chinese mystery snail (Bellamya chinensis)

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Abstract

The introduction of non-indigenous plants, animals and pathogens is one of today’s most pressing environmental challenges. Freshwater ecologists are challenged to predict the potential consequences of species invasions because many ecosystems increasingly support novel assemblages of native and non-native species that are likely to interact in complex ways. In this study we evaluated how native signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) and non-native red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) and northern crayfish (Orconectes virilis) utilize a novel prey resource: the non-native Chinese mystery snail (Bellamya chinensis). All species are widespread in the United States, as well as globally, and recent surveys have discovered them co-occurring in lakes of Washington State. A series of mesocosm experiments revealed that crayfish are able to consume B. chinensis, despite the snail’s large size, thick outer shell and trapdoor defense behaviour. Crayfish exhibited size-selective predation whereby consumption levels decreased with increasing snail size; a common pattern among decapod predators. Comparison of prey profitability curves—defined as the yield of food (weight of snail tissue) per second of feeding time (the time taken to crack the shell and consume the contents)—suggests that small and very large snails may represent the most profitable prey choice. By contrast, previous studies have reported the opposite pattern for crayfish consumption on thin-shelled snails. For all snail size classes, we found that native P. leniusculus and invasive O. virilis consumed greater numbers of snails than invasive P. clarkii. Moreover, P. leniusculus consistently handled and consumed snails at a faster pace compared to both invasive crayfishes across the range of snail sizes examined in our study. These results suggest not only that B. chinensis is a suitable food source for crayfish, but also that native P. leniusculus may ultimately out-consume invasive crayfishes for this new prey resource.